We are in the middle of a pandemic and unfortunately that means that many big events aren’t able to be held: including weddings. I have been meaning to write up this post on how to officiate weddings just so that people could have that information but now it seems necessary for those who wish to get married.
When I officiated my first wedding, it was literally one of the most special moments of my life. It was special to me, because it was the wedding of two of my very close friends. I hope these nine steps make it easy for you to experience the same thing!
#1: Get ordained
The first step is the easiest. It’s ridiculous how easy it is to become an ordained minister. You literally go online, fill out your information, and BAM. You are an ordained minister. You can now go and bring people together under the eyes of the law, congratulations. I became ordained under the Universal Life Church but there are so many organizations out there to choose from. I chose ULC because their website was super easy to navigate and they consider all faiths equal which was important to me. Once you become ordained, call the Clerk of the Superior Court in your state and verify that you are on their records. This is also a great time to find out if there are any extra steps to take before you can officiate. In Arizona, it’s super easy…no extra paperwork is necessary. As soon as you become ordained in Arizona, your name will be added to their records.
#2: Get the marriage license
Before anyone can get married anywhere, a marriage license is needed. This is the couple’s responsibility because the couple needs to be present. They can get a marriage license at the Clerk of the Superior Court in their state. In Arizona, a marriage license is $76.
#3: Prepare the ceremony script
The next step is to get all of your material and organize it into a format that
makes sense. For those of you who have gone to wedddings, you’ll realize that there is a certain format that ministers follow. I used this format and took a ton of artistic liberty and added/deleted sections so that it fit the theme and personality of my friends. But you basically have the following sections:
Procession: Bride walks in.
Invocation: Minister greets audience.
Declaration of Intent: Minister asks the couple ‘do you take..’
Vows & Rings Exchange: Self explanatory, couple exchanges vows and rings.
Pronouncement: Marriage is official and minister introduces the newly married couple.
Recessional: Everyone exits the ceremony room and the party begins!
I added a whole section on their history (that took up the majority of the
ceremony speech) after the Invocation and a section on the groom’s favorite
thing about the bride and the bride’s favorite thing about the groom. It all
depends on what the couple is looking for. A lot of weddings also add special moments during the ceremony that can symbolized their love (breaking a plate, lighting a candle, filling up a container with sand, parents putting a necklace on the couple, etc.). That’s the great thing about having a friend officiate your ceremony, you have so much freedom to add what you like.
Since the first wedding that I was going to officiate was for one of my closest friends, I wanted it to be perfect for her. I wanted it to be real. I wanted it to be personal. I wanted to make her and her loved ones laugh and cry. And the best way to do this was to interview the couple and get to know their raw history. I spent over three hours with the couple and we all cried and laughed through this, but it resulted in a beautiful ceremony speech. I interviewed them together and then I interviewed them separately to find out the groom’s favorite thing about the bride, and the bride’s favorite thing about the groom which ended up being the best part of the ceremony speech. Not only did I get a ton of material and content for the wedding day, I also got to know my friends on a deeper level which was my favorite takeaway.
Give yourself plenty of time, I usually give myself 2-3 months to get it right and then give myself some time to practice. One thing I want to stress is that officiating someone’s wedding is a huge honor and it makes it a more personal wedding so I would recommend that during the ceremony you make it personal and intimate and make it about telling the couple’s story. The Universal Life Church has templates to get you started here.
In order for a marriage to be legally binding, there are 2 key elements you have to include in the ceremony script:
- The declaration of intent which is “Do you take….I do’ exchange.
- The pronouncement which is where you pronounce them officially married “By the power vested in me by the Universal Life Church and the state of XX, I now pronounce you husband and wife”. Also make sure to ask them how they want you to introduce them “Mr. and Mrs. XX”, because there might be some wives who won’t be changing their last names so it’s important to ask 🙂
I would encourage every couple to do vows. It makes for a better wedding ceremony. I also send the ceremony script once it’s drafted to the couple to make sure I’m not going to be embarrassing them or sharing something they don’t want to be shared.
Some people like to incorporate traditions into the ceremony (I personally love this). My friends have done things like lighting a candle, mixing sand, etc.) so make sure to ask the couple if they want to do this. There are plenty of ideas on Pinterest.
Make sure to ask who the ring bearer will be because you will need to include that in the script. I have also noticed a lot of weddings where the officiant mentions the grooms men and bridesmaids (like how they know the couple) so you can do that too.
I cannot stress how important it is to practice. This is one of the most
important moments in the lives of your friends, please don’t mess it up by
stumbling over the words. I record myself giving the speech too because that sometimes sparks inspiration on what needs to be added.
#5: Get your outfit
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Of course the most important part of officiating the wedding is to get the
words right, but you also need to look good. You will be in a lot of pictures
and you don’t want to ruin the vibe. For men, just wear what you would wear to a wedding. For women, I would recommend a conservative outfit that isn’t too bold or loud. You shouldn’t be upstaging the bride. Dark colors are best, I have opted for black or navy blue…except for the peach shirt I wore to officiate a wedding on the beach.
#6: Get excited
This is a big deal, get excited! Your friends/loved ones have asked you to be a big part of their ceremony.
#7: Rehearse the key elements
During the rehearsal, it’s good to practice where they will be standing during the ceremony and how they will walk up. I also have them practice saying the whole ‘I promise to be your lawfully wedded…’ and the “I do” because I have found that if they don’t practice they stumble on the words.
#8: Be there for the couple
I’m so glad that for the first wedding that I officiated, I was also a
bridesmaid because I was really worried that I would cry when I saw my friend walk down the aisle. Luckily I saw her before she walked down the aisle so I was able to keep my composure because this moment wasn’t about me and my feelings. This moment was about my friends who were about to start the next chapter of their lives. As the minister, you need to be supportive and calm, because the couple will be experiencing a ton of emotions and you need to keep them grounded and guide them through this moment.
#9: Get the signatures and ensure marriage license is mailed to the county
A lot of people aren’t aware of this, but the marriage isn’t official until the
marriage license is signed and dropped off at the county clerk’s office.
I hope all of this info has helped you and has prepared you to be the best wedding officiant of 2020. Let me know if you have any questions as I am happy to help. Check out #EnthusiasticAboutWeddings to see just a few of the weddings I’ve officiated.
Thank you all for reading, and stay enthusiastic!